View of the Za'atri camp in Jordan for Syrian refugees as seen on July 18, 2013, from a helicopter carrying U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. State Department photo/ Public Domain.
“When faced with the option of remaining in an increasingly war-torn country versus the risks of treacherous ocean crossings and long treks through uncertain terrain as winter closes in, thousands have chosen the latter,” wrote Alison Campbell, Senior Director for Global Initiatives at Internews.
The refugees’ terrible choice is made more difficult and dangerous by a lack of useful information along the way, said Internews in the first of a series of posts addressing the information needs of migrants and refugees.
Internews is an international non-profit organization. Its mission is to empower local media worldwide to give people the news and information they need, the ability to connect and the means to make their voices heard.
From Turkey through Lesvos, Greece and onward through the Balkans, a lack of current, local information makes many vulnerable to kidnappers, traffickers and smugglers. Or it means people find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and get involved in riots or stampedes. Or they simply travel for days to find a border recently closed, according to Internews.
Smartphones are useless without local information. GPS may tell a traveler that he/she is on Lesvos, but it relate in Arabic or Dari or Pashto how to get to the registration center, how far that is, whether to walk or wait for a bus. The phone may connect to a loved one further along the trail, but the information is as likely to be laced with rumor and outdated information as useful insights. And the phone may run out of power.
Internews said it arrived on Lesvos almost two months ago to assess and try to address the information needs of the refugees landing there en route to Europe.
“Shockingly, despite intensive media coverage of the situation … and the presence of hundreds of volunteers and aid agency personnel, there was not even the most basic signage or other information to greet people as they land and help them understand where they were and what to do next,” wrote Campbell.
To read the rest of the article, including an identification of the first thing refugees needed in terms of communication and what Internews provided, click here.